What the Bills have to do
An Insiders perspective from New England.
By Patriots Insider Staff
Three things the Bills have to do on Sunday in order to get the win.
1) Run, run and run some more:
The Patriots rush defense has allowed opponents to maintain control of the clock and sustain drives. Opponent's ability to convert on third down has been a key to their wins, and a strong rushing attack has been the main weapon to achieve those conversions. The Patriots rank in the bottom of the league statistically against the run (25th overall) while the Bills have the 12th best running game.
If Buffalo can gain 4 yards on each run on first or second down, their ability to convert on third will improve greatly. Willis McGahee can change a game if Buffalo can open holes for him. In games where McGahee has had room to run, he's averaged over 5 yards per gain. When opponents scheme against him, he's been held closer to 3 yards per carry. Buffalo need to establish the run early.
2) Go for the big play:
New England has been susceptible to the big play more so this season than all of last year. They have allowed big games by teams not known for their big play making ability. Denver's Jake Plummer managed to hit both Ashlee Lelie and Rod Smith of 50-yard gains each. The inability of the Patriots to stop the big play has been their downfall. So far the Pats have allowed huge plays to Randy Moss, Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle-El, Antonio Gates, Ricky Proehl, Brian Finneran, Smith and Lelie. Not all of the names on that list are prime time players, yet each has a gain of at least 30 yards.
The Patriots pass defense ranks 24th in the league, and would be worse if teams hadn't found success running the ball as well. If the Bills can get the ball to their playmakers Eric Moulds and Lee Evans, they will be able to put up some points.
3) Establish the return game:
The Buffalo Bills have incredible talent on their return unit. Terrence McGee is on fire, averaging 34.3 yards per return. With solid field position, the Bills have been able to stay in games they would otherwise have been blown out in. McGee is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
The Patriots coverage units have been unimpressive at times, and downright awful at others. Head coach Bill Belichick has stressed the importance of improving special teams play, and coach Brad Seely is doing his best to accommodate those wishes. The talent on the coverage unit isn't what it's been on years past. New England has tried to address this by shuffling the reserves on the roster to see which players can help special teams. Last year it was Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi helping out. If the Bills get good field position on their returns, they may just be able to hang with the Patriots long enough to make a game out of it. Big plays give teams hope, and that's all the Bills need.